BATH, N.Y. (WETM) – Officials in Steuben County announced there has been a 90 percent increase in reports of child physical and sexual abuse over the past year, though the County said its efforts to protect kids have been a “tremendous success.”

The Steuben County Child Advocacy Center, a program from the District Attorney and Social Services and Child Protective Department, said it conducted 214 interviews with children about reports of abuse and neglect during its first year of operation. DA Brooks Baker said, “That’s five times what we expected,” and is reportedly a 90 percent increase.

These reports included alleged physical and sexual abuse, as well as children abusing other children.

“The data is shocking,” said county Department of Social Services Commissioner Kathryn Muller. “The
Child Advocacy Center provides a safe, family-centered environment in which impacted youth can receive
services. The program reduces trauma to children by reducing the number of interviews conducted.”

Jack Wheeler, the Steuben County Manager, cited the pandemic and school closings as the primary reason for the increase in cases. He explained that the majority of suspected child abuse cases are reported by teachers and other school staff.

“Now, we are seeing an uptick,” Wheeler said. “I wouldn’t say it’s astronomically larger than prior to the pandemic.”

The Steuben County CAC, officials said, can provide support to families and children who are struggling.

The CAC was approved in the County legislature in 2018, but it’s implementation was delayed because of COVID-19. In order to conduct the child interviews, the CAC has a multi-disciplinary team which interviews children and their non-offending family members in a safe, kid-friendly setting, as well as a mobile unit for families that can’t travel to the Center.

“Comprehensive wrap around services are provided to all victims and their families, allowing them to begin
the healing process from day one,” Muller said. “The partnership with DA Baker and his office has made this
program highly successful.”